The internet is overflowing with content. Cats playing the piano, the cacophonous Baby Shark, dogs riding skateboards, and all sorts of reaction videos have been flooding our minds for years now. But there’s also an untapped portion of the internet that can help you ace your next exam… educational content.
Educational videos aren’t a new thing by any means. Kids have been singing “take a look, it’s in a book…” ever since Reading Rainbow graced classroom TV screens everywhere in the early 80’s. But the sheer amount of educational content floating around is at an all-time high.
Educational content on the internet comes in many forms and ranges greatly in quality, but once you put in some work to find content that really speaks to you and your situation, it can be an amazing tool to help supplement your studying (and give you a break from textbooks).
Why learning multimedia content works
Before we jump into the specifics of how to find and use free educational content, let’s talk about why multimedia educational content actually works.
Richard Mayer, a renowned educational psychologist, developed the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, which helps explain why humans tend to have better comprehension and memory when learning from multimedia.
Long story short, multimedia (specifically video) educational content is unique because it takes advantage of two sensory channels, your ears and eyes. By processing both auditory and visual information, you have heightened engagement with the material and your learning becomes more active rather than passive.
By engaging more with your learning material, you enhance knowledge construction, or the ability to build and connect the mental portrayals of the material you just consumed. This leads to greater memory retention and recall, which means you’ll be able to pull that info out of your brain quickly and easily on exam day.
Podcasts may not have the visual element you get with video, but you do use your imagination when picturing what the podcasts hosts are discussing. Using your imagination is actually a form of active learning and holds similar benefits as other forms of multimedia.
And at the end of the day, fun educational videos or audio can be a nice break from the textbooks and lectures we’re all so used to being inundated with. By taking a break from your ‘normal’ learning methods, you’ll feel recharged and ready to absorb more of that sweet, sweet knowledge.
Finding that needle in the haystack
Using multimedia as a learning tool is great and all, but how do you sift through the mountain of content to find some great golden nuggets? There’s just SO much content out there, some good, some bad, and some so bad that it’s actually good.
Here are some methods you can use to find that proverbial needle and a haystack.
Or YouTube it, whatever your jam is. This might be pretty obvious, but it’s definitely the most powerful way to find great content. The key here is to be specific and drill down into a subject with key search terms to find the really good stuff.
For example, instead of searching for “Nursing videos”, search for something like “Nursing acute respiratory distress syndrome videos”. You’ll turn up more relevant and specific content this way.
And if you’re able to find someone producing content you enjoy, they’ll probably have much more you can explore that touches on other relevant topics.
Scour internet forums and discussion boards
If you’re searching for something specific, there’s probably been at least a few other people out there talking about it on Reddit or some random forum. Forums and discussion boards can be a valuable trove of resources and information that can help you find that next YouTube channel to binge-watch.
There’s even a search engine just for finding content on forums, Boardreader. And if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, just ask around! There’s plenty of folks out there who would love to point you in the right direction.
Don’t overlook podcasts
While you won’t get the added benefit of visual elements with audio-only podcasts, they are still great learning tools that are super convenient to listen to on-the-go. Just because educational podcasts probably won’t have you on the edge of your seat, it’s still great to plug in and passively learn while you’re doing the dishes, going for a walk, or during your commute.
Podcasts like FreshRN, Medic2Medic, or IT Career Energizer are perfect for those just about to break into a specific profession. They give you some real life examples of what to expect on the job and how you can prepare for your future career.
You can even find exam-specific content that can help you prep for that next test, like this episode from the Project Management Podcast on preparing for the PMI PMP Exam.
How to get the most out of multimedia content
So you’ve found that podcast or video you’ve been searching for and are ready to flex those brain muscles. How do you make sure the precious time you spend watching or listening is worthwhile?
To have better engagement with the material you’re consuming, sit down with a pen and paper and prepare to write to your heart’s content. I’ve been known to fill up notebooks with my brain’s ramblings while listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos, and it really helps me retain the information.
You should also write down specific timestamps of when certain topics are discussed so you can easily go back and rewatch segments that really spoke to you.
Use a productive study space
If you’re at home or in school, treat videos and podcasts just like normal studying and make sure you’re watching or listening in a productive study space. It’ll help you engage with the material more if you’re in a space that is catered to productive learning. And if you don’t have a productive study space just yet, no worries! We wrote an article about how you can start to build one.
Depending on your learning style and strengths, video and audio content is best suited as a learning supplement along with other learning methods. Textbooks, lectures, and practice exams definitely still have their place as the go-to’s for learning complex materials within a particular subject area. But when you’re tired of the same-old and need something new, videos and podcasts are always there waiting for you.